No one will ever again wear the number 50 for the Toledo Rockets in a men’s basketball game. And no one ever should. In a ceremony Feb. 17, UT retired Steve Mix’s jersey at halftime of its game against Old Dominion. It was long overdue.
Mix did it all at UT and made an immediate impact. In an era when freshmen didn’t play varsity, the 6-foot-7-inch “big man” was a three-time all-MAC performer who averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds in each of his three seasons from 1966 to 1969. The Rockets even beat Notre Dame in his first college game as the team went on to post a 23-2 record, a MAC championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
But Mix was more than stats. The work ethic that made the Rogers High School graduate a UT legend, turned a fifth-round draft pick (the NBA only goes two rounds today) into a 13-year pro player who even made it to the NBA All-Star game in 1975. His all-out hustle produced the second most steals in the NBA in the ‘73-‘74 season and his drive to be the best he could be turned a 59 percent free throw shooter in his rookie season into an 85 percent success from the charity stripe by his final year.
Mix, who has been a color commentator for the Philadelphia 76ers for 16 seasons, is the first one to give his teammates credit for his college success and his legendary coach Bobby Nichols credit for teaching him how to become a better player.
Best memories? In Mix’s weekly segment on “The Front Row,” the UT Hall of Famer said, “The old Field House, with the students on one side and the season ticket holders on the other, it had to be the loudest place to play in college basketball.”
Most memorable game? “When Spencer Haywood and the University of Detroit came down and he bragged he was going to have a career night. I had 30 points and 20 rebounds,” Mix said.
How did Haywood do? “He ended up taking a swing at a player and then an official and got thrown out,” Mix said.
I asked him who should be the next player to be immortalized at UT with having their jersey retired, and Mix quickly replied, “Chuck Ealey, no question. And when UT gets their renovation done on Savage Hall, the court should be re-named Bob Nichols court.”
Even at 59, Steve Mix shoots straight, and is dead-on accurate.
This year’s boys Toledo City League season has been brutally difficult for everybody involved. On any given night, your team likely has to face a very well coached team. Ed Heintschel (St. John’s), Leroy Bates (Libbey), Joe Suboticki (Scott), Nick Lowe (St. Francis), Bruce Smith (Whitmer) and Joe and Gil Guerrero (Clay and Start) have all proven themselves to be terrific coaches.
Dave Pitsenbarger (Waite) and Corey Tucker (Woodward) are no slouches, either.
But this year, Paul Patterson at Central Catholic has joined the bunch. Patterson’s Fighting Irish knocked off St. John’s and St. Francis this year and almost beat Scott to boot.
Welcome to the club, Paul.
Norm Wamer hosts “The Front Row” weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. on Sports Radio 1470 “The Ticket” WLQR-AM.